The last two days of the NA LCS at PAX Prime delivered some truly nailbiting games as some of the giants of the North American scene clashed, but what lay in store for them on their prospective path to the Worlds?
DAY THREE: Curse and LMQ’s last chance at Worlds – will Curse end their streak as the eternal fourth?
Curse suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Cloud 9, where they lost every game in under 30 minutes and even felt compelled to surrender the first game in the series. LMQ, on the other hand, had a much closer best of five against TSM, but proved unable to claim a fifth consecutive win against the team they had dominated in the LCS. Both teams would have to put these past losses aside and focus completely on the third place game – it was all or nothing and their last shot at going to Worlds.
The series started off at an excruciating pace, with kills being traded in a multitude of exchanges. Voyboy in particular tried to get rolling on Yasuo ASAP, keeping XiaoWeiXiao on Twisted Fate from exerting pressure across the map. The gold lead swung up and down like a yoyo in what wa quite a long game. As Curse regained the lead, they turned a TF engage in their favor, resulting in four kills. They headed straight for LMQ’s base after this, using the long death timers to push in and take the game – a huge confidence boost for Curse as they went up 1-0.
Curse liked the taste of victory and wanted more. Voyboy picked up Yasuo again in game two, but LMQ thought he was too much of a threat in the previous game and ganked him twice in quick succession. The first resulted in a kill, but The Boy Wonder turned the second one around in style with the help of Dominate. Once again, the game is very close in gold and kills, but Curse grabbed the momentum with a decisive Baron and four-for-one exchange. With a small advantage, they came knocking at LMQ’s base. Ackerman on Maokai engaged at the mid inhibitor turret, but the fight soon went south as Curse scored an ace and quickly decimated the base, bringing them up to 2-0.
LMQ didn’t want to make the same mistake three times in a row, and denied Voyboy Yasuo by picking him up for XiaoWeiXiao. Voyboy opted for Zed instead, on whom he is just as deadly. Curse had the momentum at the start and picked up early kills and towers, but LMQ held on with global gold from a dragon kill and solid farming. A 20 minute fight at dragon went heavily in LMQ’s favor as they killed three and picked up Baron right after. They then used the buff to push to Curse’s top inhibitor while Voyboy split pushed at bot. Curse pulled themselves back into the game when dragon respawned by engaging 5v4 as LMQ missed Ackerman. LMQ responded with a risky Baron, but Voyboy overextended and got caught while Dominate got taken out in the back as he tried to Smite steal. With the Baron buff and three dead for Curse, LMQ shoved down mid, sieged top and aced Curse as they desperately tried to defend. Game three went to LMQ, making the score 2-1.
Game four had a low kill start, but with Voyboy on Yasuo you knew that could change quickly. LMQ had dragon control, but Curse contested and pushed them off the second time it spawned. Seeing Quas in top lane, however, Ackerman flanked into a Flash engage, allowing LMQ to pick up four kills. They transitioned into a 15 minute Baron and made most of the buff, taking down five towers and picking up two more kills in bot lane. As they headed bot again, they caught and rotated mid to the inhibitor, retaking Baron as Curse tried to push out only to lose two in the process. With the purple buff renewed, Ackerman acted as XiaoWeiXiao’s Orianna ball courier in mid as LMQ took four kills. They pushed to end but Curse surrendered before they get to finish, tying the series at 2-2.
LMQ were on the brink of a comeback, but Curse are not a team to bend easily. At 17 minutes, Voyboy went deep into the dragon pit to keep LMQ from taking it, but got controlled and taken down as LMQ scored an ace for three. Not two minutes later, Voyboy got caught overextending once again when putting a ward down. LMQ seized the opportunity to dive mid and took four kills total as well as the mid tower. Curse headed for Baron to force a comeback, but got engaged on, aced and had to watch LMQ pick up the kill instead. From here it was a downward spiral for Curse as they were aced twice more in bot lane: once as a trap on Vasilii went haywire and again when LMQ sieged their inhibitor turret and got a perfect engage on Cop. Good game to LMQ, as they made their comeback and took the series 3-2.
DAY FOUR: Team SoloMid look to beat Cloud 9 to grab first place in the NA LCS for the first time in three splits
TSM and C9 have faced off against each other in the finals of an LCS split twice before, and both times C9 came out on top with a 3-0 sweep. However, as TSM have demonstrated against LMQ in the semifinals, they don’t like negative statistics. With their recent roster and staff changes, would the team have what it takes to take down Cloud 9 and claim first place once more? Not if Balls and his crew had anything to say about it.
As fitting for a clash of the titans, the first game started off very evenly, with TSM picking up towers early but C9 getting more kills and dragons. TSM used a lot of resources and clumped up to keep the objectives going in their favor. Meanwhile, Hai was getting very strong on Zed. C9 pushed TSM into an awkward position on their side of mid lane and used the opening to force Baron. They then engaged on TSM after they got the buff, picking up four kills as well as a dragon. After basing, they transitioned to siege the bot lane inhibitor turret, where they killed Dyrus and Bjergsen to finish game one.
Similar to game one, game two had early kills in favor of C9 and towers for TSM. TSM, however, used the turret advantage to its full extent to gain vision control and deny information from C9, they also securing the early lead and the first two dragons. A few good teamfights from C9 kept them in the game, but generally it was TSM gaining more bit by bit every time they clashed. With a small advantage, TSM sieged C9 at the mid inhibitor turret. An extended fight followed, with them picking up four kills with their second round of cooldowns. By now, the death timers were long enough to push in and take the game as TSM brought the score to 1-1, claiming their first win again C9 in a LCS playoff.
Both teams played very carefully at the start of game three. Trading towers and dragons seemed to be the priority, with a fight at dragon at 28 minutes going in favor of C9 as they saw an opportunity when Dyrus misclicked his Zhonya’s Hourglass – it’s little mistakes like that one that can make a huge difference in top level games. C9 took the dragon and Baron when Hai’s Zed blew up Amazing on Kha’Zix, then methodically exerting pressure and keeping TSM confined to their base. TSM then saw an opportunity to push out, but ended up getting shoved and spread out thin into their jungle. C9 and Hai in particular used the situation to clean house, picking up the ace and game and bringing the score to 2-1 back in their favor.
It became an indication of C9’s success in this series: they needed Hai to do well in order to win, and Hai did not do well on Orianna this game. He died twice to TSM’s focus fire before the game is three minutes in, and TSM used that pressure to secure the first dragon. With a slight advantage, TSM fought at dragon when it respawned and pushed C9 off it, but Meteos managed to just run into the pit and Smite to steal it. TSM punished them for it, however, as Dyrus flanked to engage and TSM walked out at low health – but with four kills and Baron. Bjergsen and Dyrus showed great synergy on Xerath and Ryze respectively, and it was on their backs that TSM tied up the series at 2-2 and forced a fifth and final game.
Game five was another super careful game, with no one willing to risk making a potentially vital mistake. TSM claimed the early advantage, but as Meteos stole a dragon and Sneaky on Corki landed missiles with deadly accuracy, C9 were still in it. TSM pushed down mid to the inhibitor, but C9 was doing the exact same thing on the bottom side of the map. As TSM came back mid after backing, they lost four members as Bjergsen missed a Shockwave, with C9 then heading for Baron. C9 were in the lead, and they headed to the open inhibitor at bot, taking it and making out alive. TSM held the fort and waited for the inhibitor to respawn before pushing out the mid lane and heading for their own open inhibitor. C9 flanked around and tried to squeeze them into their base, but TSM clumped up and poked very well before the fight fully erupted. TSM went for broke and Wildturtle went big, scoring a quadra kill while only losing two. As the fight was very close to C9’s base, they had more than enough time to push in to take the game, claiming the gripping series 3-2, finally beating Cloud 9 in the playoffs and taking first place in the North American LCS!
It’s safe to say the last two days of PAX Prime gave us quite the nailbiters, with two series going to five games and every inch of Summoner’s Rift being fought over tooth and nail. As the event comes to a conclusion, we now know that TSM, Cloud 9 and LMQ will be heading to the World Championships to represent North America, with KaBuM! E-Sports to be the first representative of the Brazilian League of Legends scene on the game’s biggest stage.
What were some of your favorite moments of the NA LCS at PAX Prime, and how do you think the North and South American teams will fare at the World Championships in a few weeks’ time? Let us know your thoughts in comments below!
If you want a recap of what happened during the EU LCS playoffs, be sure to take a look at our rundown of the action at gamescom. In addition to this, you can also find more of our League of Legends content here.